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Universities learning about sport of parkour the hard way

A single "monkey vault" seems harmless enough.

But combine the parkour maneuver with a few "tic-tacs," some "cat leaps," and a few rooftop hurdles and the potential for premise liability builds.

Parkour is a growing extreme sport that requires enthusiasts to efficiently propel their bodies through urban obstacle courses. They leapfrog over corner mail boxes in a maneuver called a "monkey vault," jump over walls by first running at an adjacent wall in a move called a "tic-tac," and leaping off roofs, perhaps followed by a roll, before continuing their run.

Imagine a cross between gymnastics and running from the cops.

Action films and several sneaker advertising campaigns have popularized parkour--widely credited as being invented by David Belle of France in the 1980s.

Some risk managers say it's akin to skateboarders sneaking onto their property to perform their feats, and it raises concerns about potential liability.

"It's an emerging issue," says Alyssa Keehan, a risk analyst specializing in premises liability for United Educators, a Chevy Chase, Md.-based reciprocal risk retention group providing coverage for universities nationwide.

Parkour participants, who are called "traceurs," seem particularly attracted to colleges. Campuses provide plenty of obstacles to scale, leap from and roll over, and traceurs tend to be college age.

United Educators has received notice of fewer than a dozen claims over the past two years, Ms. Keehan says. Some are the result of serious injuries. Liability could eventually depend on whether a college sponsors the activity. Not all university risk managers agree with Ms. Keehan, but she says campuses are not likely to be held responsible for injured traceurs.

"Given that the student is the one seeking out a dangerous situation that your average person wouldn't attempt to do or would avoid...there is minimal liability because it is such an obvious risk and they are trying to put themselves in these risky situations," Ms. Keehan said.

ESPN fantasy baseball league gets tagged

Imagine this, fantasy baseball fans: You've paid $30 to join a premium online fantasy league only to discover that--because of a sponsor's computer glitch--you may not be able to add, drop or trade players.

Now it looks like you're stuck for the season with that pitcher who tore a ligament in spring training and won't play until 2008.

Participants in ESPN fantasy leagues faced just such a situation at the start of this season, and the company is refunding fees to its members as a result, a spokesman confirmed.

ESPN, which is owned by Walt Disney Co., has offered premium fantasy leagues before, but this year added free leagues for the first time and saw a big jump in traffic, the spokesman said.

The added traffic was not the problem, he explained. Instead, it was a software flaw that often prevented the system from processing trades between teams and other player transactions.

The problem affected both premium and free leagues.

The spokesman declined to say how many paying participants ESPN has or how much the refunds will add up to, but noted that most participants are in free leagues. He also wouldn't say if the refunds create an insurable loss for ESPN.

The problem has been fixed, though, and all leagues are running normally again. So if no one has picked up Roger Clemens in your league yet, act now.

Judge throws the book at comp cheat

A Templeton, Mass., businessman convicted of perjury for altering documents in a workers compensation case must point his pen in a new direction: a 1,000-word essay on the book "Integrity" by Stephen Carter.

That's part of a sentence imposed on Alan Koren, who was convicted in late March of changing orders and dates on receipts for his now-defunct company, Wood Technology Inc., to show that he purchased safety glasses for his workers prior to a 1998 incident in which one of his workers lost an eye on the job, according to a statement from the Massachusetts attorney general's office.

The injured employee filed a workers comp claim and was denied, leading him to file a case with the state's Department of Industrial Accidents. In that office's investigation, Mr. Koren testified he supplied his workers with safety glasses and provided investigators with an invoice showing he bought the glasses in 1997, one year prior to the accident.

At the DIA trial, a former employee testified that Mr. Koren changed the date on the safety glasses invoice by using correction fluid, a pen and a photocopier.

After a conviction on perjury charges, a Worcester County, Mass., Superior Court judge sentenced Mr. Koren to 30 months in prison, ordered him to read "Integrity" and write a 1,000-word essay on the book, and to publicly speak three times about his crime.

Slow down! Mom & Dad are watching

For some, the tall tale of the teenager who was "at the library studying" may no longer be a viable alibi thanks to a pilot program kicked off this month by AIG Auto Insurance.

The New York-based insurer is offering parents of teen drivers in six states the option of installing a discounted global positioning system tracking device in their cars, enabling parents to check, via the Internet or cell phone, whether their novice driver is obeying the speed limit-- and whether he or she is really at the library.

To the horror of most 16-year-old drivers, the AIG Teen GPS program will also send an e-mail and/or cell phone text message to a parent when their teen has exceeded pre-set speed limits or has left a pre-defined geographical area.

A spokesman for the program said parents will have to pay for the tracking device and the monthly service but will do so at an undisclosed discount. The program will not affect premiums for parents with teen drivers, he said.

AIG, meanwhile, plans to track the pilot program to see whether it results in fewer teen driving accidents and traffic tickets, said John Cantwell, vp of AIG Marketing Inc., who helped develop the program.

The goal is to eventually reduce the number of teenage driving fatalities and accidents by allowing parents and their children to work together to set and understand rules and monitor behavior, he said. "This is a responsibility issue for the new driver,"said Mr. Cantwell.

AIG hopes to enroll 300 customers in the pilot program, he said. It is being offered to customers in Arizona, Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Washington.

Contributing: Roberto Ceniceros,

Louise Esola, Douglas McLeod